The Redlands East Valley High bench players, as the final seconds elapsed, covered their heads with their hands, as if they’d just witnessed an accident.

Their team lost the section title match to Yorba Linda 5-4, in overtime. The championship dream was dashed.

The victorious Mustangs leaped into the pool in celebration. It was their day. Later they gathered as a team and posed for photos.

The harsh reality of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs is that only one team wins. That team was not Redlands East Valley, even though it battled valiantly and their coach and players, for the most part, handled the difficult loss well.

“I’m very proud of these boys,” REV coach Ryan Williams said of his Citrus Belt League champions. “They’ve come a long way. I’m not disappointed about the loss, I’m disappointed for them.”

Yorba Linda scored two goals in overtime – one in each extra period – to edge the Wildcats.

“They were a really good team and we are too,” said senior Nicolas Sadowski who led REV with two goals. “Obviously they studied us and knew who to shut down on our team. They knew how to play us. It was a close game and it could have gone either way.”

Williams agreed the teams had each other well-diagnosed and said it came down to who would emerge among the role players.

Sadowski was one of those players early as his backhanded shot with 24 seconds left in the first period tied the game 1-1. The score remained that way in the tense defensive battle until Sadowski scored on a power play with 3:43 left in the second period to give REV its only lead of the game.

But Yorba Linda (27-4) answered with a goal by Toring Stanley just 12 seconds later.

The minutes melted away after that on this hot day until there was just 4:31 left in regulation. Yorba Linda’s Alexander Mikus took a pass from Corbin Stanley and scored on a power play for the Mustangs to the delight of their fans. But Nico Perna coolly leveled the score for REV with 1:36 left in regulation.

Undaunted, Yorba Linda struck quickly in overtime following a REV turnover. Cody Chastain took the ball on the counterattack and tallied to put the Mustangs ahead 4-3.

The Mustangs’ Reese Jenican then seemed to put the game out of reach with 2:01 left in the second OT when he also scored.

However, REV goalkeeper Luca Smith came out of the cage and found the back of the cage with 32 seconds left to lift Wildcat hopes. But Yorba Linda played catch after that and burned all but two seconds off the clock.

A long, last-ditch REV pass toward the cage splashed harmlessly as the game ended.

Both goalkeepers were tremendous, with Yorba Linda’s Tyler Armstrong amassing 20 saves and Luca Smith 13 for REV (22-6).

“We didn’t have good shots on goal,” Williams said. “Their goalie played a great game and I think Luca kept us in the game too.”

The defeat was difficult for REV which was seeking the school’s second section polo title and its first in such a high division (D2).

“This was our season and it was really close and we just needed to play a little better,” Sadowski said.

The REV standout’s voice quivered at times as he showed a large dollop of class by patiently answering each question.

“I’ve been playing since I was 8 or 9 and this was my last year and this was our shot to do this,” he said.

Said Williams, putting the setback into perspective, “They didn’t get much of a season last year [due to the coronavirus pandemic] and to have won in the finals would have been like icing on the cake, but it didn’t happen. But second-best is good and I hope it’s good enough for them because I’m proud of them.”

***

REV’s season continued as it was chosen for the CIF-State Southern California Regional Division II tournament. The Wildcats received the No. 3 seed and were scheduled to host Valhalla of El Cajon on Tuesday, Nov. 16 (too late for publication). The semifinals were scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 18, and the finals for Saturday, Nov. 20.

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